Review: The Secret Garden (1993 movie)

This is one in a long series of adaptations of the popular children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett (but the only one I’ve actually seen). The heroine (Kate Maberly) is an orphaned girl whose rich parents died in a fire in India, where she had grown up surrounded by servants and ignored by her parents. She’s taken in by her uncle, a wealthy, morose man who lives in an isolated country home and who wants nothing to do with her. Maggie Smith runs the household and orders the heroine to stay in her room and touch nothing.

But she’s too headstrong to obey such orders and finds ways to go exploring. She’s initially rude (as she was raised to be) to a friendly young maid, but the maid’s ridiculously patient and cheerful good-humor gradually humanizes her, and the maid’s younger brother, a boy her age, becomes her friend and helps her restore the neglected walled garden of the title.

In the meantime she discovers that there’s someone else her age living in the house, and she begins paying secret visits that eventually lead to an overturning of the entire household.

It’s a nice little story that I suspect some will find a bit slow-moving but in the end very likable, especially children looking for something different from the usual action movie fare. Other adaptations are said to a bit be closer to the original novel, but this is quite popular. I’m glad to say it respects the intelligence of the audience, leaving us to figure out a lot of things without having them spelled out.


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